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Minerva Chirurgica 2003 June;58(3):313-20

language: Italian

Carbon dioxide embolization: is it a complication of laparoscopic cholecystectomy?

Scoletta P., Morsiani E., Ferrocci G., Maniscalco P., Pellegrini D., Colognesi A., Azzena G.


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The occurrence of pulmonary gas embolism in patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy is reported in the medical literature. Severe intraoperative complications or the patient's death were correlated to gas embolism during laparoscopic procedures. However, the careful retrospective study or the autoptic exam of such casualties have always showed an erroneus direct puncture of vessels or the straight insertion of the Veress needle into a parenchymal organ. It is obvious that the direct gas injection into a vein or into parenchymal organs is a primary cause of gas embolism, as well as the high flow insufflation of gas into the peritoneal cavity in concomitance with the lesion of major abdominal vessel's wall. Gas embolism may occur each time the vein internal pressure is lower than the external pressure and not only during a laparoscopic procedure when carbon dioxyde is inflated into the peritoneal cavity, but also during open surgery such as major liver resections, neurosurgery, vascular or cardiac surgery. The review of large series of laparoscopic cholecystectomies reported in the international literature, as well as our own clinical experience in this field, together with the results of laboratory animal studies based on the experimental insufflation or injection of carbon dioxyde, show that gas embolism must not be considered as a complication of laparoscopic surgery. Due to the above mentioned risks with the use of the Veress needle, the surgeon should revalue alternative means in creating the pneumoperitoneum.

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